Although marijuana has possibly been around since the dawn of time, when it comes to recreational pot use and its effects on motor vehicle safety, we’re all in pretty much unchartered territory. The influx of states that now make it legal to use pot recreationally, California included, has given rise to data on the effects of that usage, and some of it is not so pretty. Now that people can get high legally, the number of people getting behind the wheel and driving impaired is also on the rise, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute in a report released on October 2018.
Such was the case in March 2017, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, when a driver under the influence of a sedative and marijuana struck a church bus that killed 12 people near Concan, Texas. In its report on the accident, released in October 2018, the NTSB says that it has seen an increase in the number of impaired U.S. drivers, and the board put out a call of action for something to be done about this growing phenomenon. Notably, recreational pot use in Texas is not legal.
Earlier this month, the IIHS hosted the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving Summit at its Vehicle Research Center where it presented two studies that indicate that states with legalized recreational pot use are experiencing a higher overall rate of car crashes. One study found that in three states, including Colorado, Oregon and Washington, car crashes were up by as much as 6 percent when compared to states where recreational marijuana use is not legal. A second study examined the number of police-reported crashes before and after the legalization of weed for recreational use in those states. This study came to a similar conclusion: there was a 5.2 percent increase in overall car crashes post-legalization when compared to pre-legalization numbers.
Researchers say that in some samples, drivers who are under the influence of marijuana have slower perceptual and thinking skills, which can influence their reactions and actions on the road. Drivers who had partaken in pot smoking prior to driving using simulated testing equipment were also more apt to weave than drivers who were not high.
With six out of 10 Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana, this is an issue that is not going to go away, and the number of dangerous drivers on the road is only set to increase. Driving while under the influence of marijuana continued to be illegal in every state.
The NTSB notes that the increase in marijuana-impaired drivers calls for more specialized tools and training for law enforcement to detect these drivers and get them off the road before they have the chance to cause accidents.
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident with an impaired driver, contact the Compass Law Group right away. Our Los Angeles car crash attorney is ready to review your case and determine the best course of action moving forward. Schedule your free consultation now.